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Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster
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Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  461 ratings  ·  23 reviews

San Francisco, the 1920s. In an age when nightmares were relegated to the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and distant tales of the Whitechapel murders, a real-life monster terrorized America. His acts of butchery have proved him one of history's fiercest madmen.

As an infant, Earle Leonard Nels
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Pocket Books (first published 1998)
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Harold Schechter is quite a writer. His research is awe-inspiring and the way he can turn a tale told by an outside narrator while cuing the reader as to the times of the era that he's writing about is truly a gift. He spends very little time on the setting up the scene and this makes the read more enjoyable while moving the story along. He can transform the view of the reader from the current times to a time most know very little about. Schechter makes the reader think about not just the serial ...more
May 16, 2013 Lizzie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sickos like me
A serial killer in the 20s who killed a lot of women, mostly landladies. It's beautifully researched but sadly not that interesting because he's no Ted Bundy; he's more in the retarded / head injury / bipolar mode. Why did he kill? Who the hell knows. His MO was to go to houses displaying a "room to let" sign, strangle the landlady as she showed him the room, then rape her, and shove the body into a closet or under the bed. He started in San Francisco and San Jose (which was interesting for me b ...more
I really enjoyed Harold Schechter's writing style. The John Douglas books are just packed with facts and insights which no one seems to be able to equal and on the other end of the spectrum is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood which reads like a novel and could be the best True Crime book ever. Schechter is a very good mix of the two. Considering, first, the time period it happened. It was long ago and being able to get together the facts and make it interesting for the reader is a gift. Secondly, N ...more
Robert Miller
The author painstakingly logs the murders of 22 victims (all women except one) occurring from February 20th, 1926 to June 10th, 1927. He tracks the killer's movements from Northern California, Washington, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and finally, Winnipeg in Canada. The women, for the most part, are seeking renters to supplement their income during troubled economic times. Once safely inside the rooms he rented, he strangles them and inflicts brute and lethal blows ...more
I love how Schechter ties historical events into his stories. You can learn about history while enjoying a fascinating true crime tale.
3.5 stars:

Four years ago, if you had asked me whether or not I'd enjoy reading books about serial killers, I'd have said no. There's a big difference between reading horror, and knowing it's fiction, and reading about the suffering of a real person. But it's really not very different from reading any other non-fiction story where someone suffers or dies. It caught me by surprise when I read The Devil in the White City. The 'Death Castle' of H.H. Holmes intrigued me, so I read Schechter's Deprave
This story depicts the depravity of a serial killer. Since all of this was during the 1920's communication was lacking among the police forces of other towns and states. It isn't surprising he was able to get away with so much.

It's too bad Earle Nelson (Ferral) never confessed to his crimes. He maintained his innocence to the gallows.
Erin Bodishbaugh
Harold Schechter isn't where you turn when you want deep insight or thoughtful, even-handed non-fiction -- this book's legitimacy was immediately undercut by the fact that Schechter named the Night Stalker as "Richard Rodriguez". His books are like 300-page tabloids that, while diligently researched, make heavy use of the "What if..." factor, as well as a dramatic reenactment style of writing that sometimes puts words in the player's mouths. He's an expert at knowing what his readers want: blood ...more
A fast and eventful read.
I really appreciate and enjoy how Schechter ties in the current events of the time with the unveiling of the main story. Great word choices throughout too.

Ir's fascinating to think about and contrast how much as changed from the twenties - a few examples that come to mind; the commonality of the boarding house, the trusting of neighbors, how a man could pick up work from one job to the next and so on ...a world without TV or a phone in each home. It really made me thin
Harold Schechter's "Bestial" is first and foremost an entertaining journey. Through the lives of the victims, the killer, and the authorities who investigate the crimes, Schechter unfolds a drama that is extremely fascinating. The book not only informs the reader about a forgotten serial killer, but relates the difficulty police had in connecting crimes and coordinating forces two catch a nomadic criminal. Highly recomended for anyone who enjoys a trip to the unsettling outskirts of human existe ...more
♥ Marlene♥
On Friday, May 25, 2007 I wrote about this book:

Finished reading this book last night. As always Mister Schechter makes this period alive for you. He kept me interested from page 1 till the last.

I have read a lot of books by this author now. Only one was very disappointing, (Fatal) but all the others, like Deranged, Deviant Depraved were great.
Now I need to get my hands on Fiend.
It was a little slow in places, but mostly a very interesting book. The story is well put together using historical documents and newspapers. It would have been interesting to find out more about Earle's poor wifve, and why she did what she did. Recommend for true crime buffs that enjoy history.
Paul Coombs
A frightening account of a killer without conscience. Harold Schechter takes us on a haunting journey through the darkest place of the human mind; a territory unknown to most people. leaving no bodies unturned; he spares no gruesome details, that leaves our own minds disturbed.

Sep 01, 2011 Alicia is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this by accident for my Kindle, but gonna give it a go. I do enjoy True Crime, but I thought I was buying a book about H.H. Holmes. Oh, well!
A gripping account of one of the first American serial killers, a hulking man who also had a Houdini-like ability to escape custody.

I did not realize how long they have been using fingerprint analysis to find criminals.
Could have been about 100 pages shorter - was a bit dry, although meticulously researched.
Difficult read...Schecter has other books that are definitely more interesting.
Title should read *North* American monster, since he killed in Canada, too.
I couldn't believe how convoluted and boring this ended up being.
am currently reading...heavy material....but insightful
Another interesting deviant.
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Aka Jon A. Harrald (joint pseudonym with Jonna Gormley Semeiks)

Harold Schechter is a professor of American Literature and culture at Queens College, the City University of New York. Among his nonfiction works are the historical true-crime classics Fatal, Fiend,Deviant, Deranged, and Depraved. He also authors a critically acclaimed mystery series featuring Edgar Allan Poe, which includes The Hum Bu
More about Harold Schechter...
Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original "Psycho" The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers Deranged The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago

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